How did you get into photography? Did you study it or was it more of a hobby to begin with?
Photography really happened by accident, It stemmed from a love of the outdoors and music, both playing and watching. I had an upbringing that revolved around memories captured in photographs. Each outing, holiday and hobby throughout my childhood was documented by camera. My photography started with snapping pictures out in Hamsterley Forest whilst walking our two Labradors.
How would you describe your signature style?
I’d like to think that I’m becoming a skilled live event photographer, and I suppose you could say that my signature style of photography is "live comedy”. I feel that I am somebody who is able to not only capture a comedian on stage, but also a sense of the relationship that the comedian has formed with an audience in a small amount of time. A portrait of a comedian without removing them from the situation and the surroundings is something which I have tasked myself with in my short, quick journey into the photography world.
You photograph a wide variety of genres, from landscapes to portraits and sports photography. Do you have a favourite?
I enjoy taking photographs no matter what my subject is, my head would say that it would be an impossible task to choose! If we’re to choose a favourite genre though, I would have to fall back on landscapes. Being outdoors with a camera is something that you just beat. You could take a thousand photographs in the exact same place and you will never capture the exact same scene, that is the beauty of nature. I have a love for moving subjects, water and clouds, although cliché… there is something about a waterfall, river or the sea, and a photograph taken with a slow shutter speed that turns a force of nature into a mysterious, magical scene.
You've photographed comedy talents including Jenny Eclair and Russell Howard. How did you work your way up to photographing famous comedians?
The opportunity to photograph famous comedians is a journey which I have been on alongside a thriving local comedy scene. A wonderful photographer named Eva Zandaman moved out of the area and gave a recommendation of my work to the owner of the Funny Way to Be Comedy Club Peter Dixon. From this, I was given the opportunity to come along for the ride with the comedy club as an in-house photographer.
In the recently refurbished Witham Hall in Barnard Castle, Peter is securing some extremely high class comedians to come to a great local venue. Meeting and photographing these famous comedians is a privilege and an extremely rewarding line of work. I get a thrill from capturing the moment, the laughs, the talented live performers doing their thing, and It’s a real joy to be able to laugh uncontrollably whilst working, not something that most people can say that they do!
Tell us a bit about your Pentax kit and why you like it.
From the off, Pentax was a choice governed by head, my wallet and the recommendations from two of my friends and co-workers at Teesdale School. People sing praises for Pentax on features and value for money, and as a Pentaxian through and through I can only agree. Pentax for me shouts "Quality and features” for a very reasonable price compared to the competition.
Over the past few years, I have owned many Pentax cameras and my family have also purchased Pentax after seeing what mine had to offer. I’ve owned or still have a K-x, K-7, K-30, K-5ii and now the revolutionary K-3. Being a North- East based photographer, and living up in the sticks, encountering rain whilst out is a given. The water-resistance that the each camera apart from my K-x gave me was a huge benefit. The peace of mind that I got when outdoors in a typical english shower, happily shooting away whilst others were digging for their plastic bags or camera cases would be enough for me to justify the purchase of that camera, for what very quickly can become an expensive hobby.
Now my standard Kit comprises of 3 bodies and 3 DA* Lenses;
+ DA* 55mm f/1.4
+ DA* 16-50mm f/2.8
+ DA* 50-135mm F2.8
This standard kit which changes upon with situation I am in, but also works hand in hand with each other if shooting live events.
If I take the small rucksack out on a walk, I will carry the Flagship K-3 with the 16-50mm mounted, the 50-135mm will sit pretty next to that combination until needed.
The DA* range of lenses are superb, Professional quality, flawless manufacturing and sharp glass. All of that coupled with that crucial weather sealing is exactly what I require when outdoors or at a live event.
The K-3 is a dream to shoot with, I’m not a trigger happy shooter, but the frame rate certainly pays when shooting fast action. I have many comments on how unobtrusive my set up looks… K-3 with a grip, 50-135 and a flashgun is still a very light, small rig in comparison to the equivalent competition, oh.. And my arms agree!
The K-3’s low light performance is stellar and a must when shooting live comedy, producing a sharp, noise free shot whilst completely freezing action can have me pushing out DNG files at ISO 6400+, the K-3 does this with ease… The low light performance has been terrific since the K-5 but I personally feel that it is good, if not even better with this flagship Pentax camera. The new SONY sensor in the K-3 produces extremely detailed and crisp images.
If you had to give just three tips to someone starting out in photography, what would they be?
Learn the basics, then experiment… you need to know the basics, know the rules before you can break them!
Don’t be afraid to talk to other photographers for inspiration or help, ask lots of questions… maybe think about joining a local photography enthusiast group, learning alongside others can be rewarding and a great way to learn new techniques.
Get yourself out there, right into the action take lots of photographs. Strive to get better and learn by your mistakes, most of all… enjoy the learning process with your camera!
Tom is based in Bishop Auckland, near Durham. For more information on Tom and his photography, take a look at his website